Besidesselling a product or service, marketing plays a vital role in shaping the imageof an organisation, how people associate the organisation’s products orservices and gives people the confidence about its products. As an economicalmean of transport, railway service has become a staple in users’ lives suchthat it will still be used regardless of proper marketing. Whether the railoperator is for or not for profit, the marketing function is still critical asit helps to build relationships between the companies and their users and alsohelps to ensure that they continue using the service.
In terms of peopletransport, this is especially crucial when the service experiences a disruptionas affected passengers might be discouraged from taking the same service infuture for fear of potential train faults which might jeopardise their journey.However,this fear could be alleviated if the railway company has established along-standing accolade of quality and accountability which could assure thepassengers that such an incident will not happen again as the company will doits best to investigate and resolve the issue. Without proper marketingcampaigns to build a sound reputation for the organisation, similar situationswould likely cause the organisation to lose their passenger base to competingrailway services or other modes of transport such as buses. Besidespromoting the image of railway companies, marketing also helps to publicise andinform the public of a new or improved route in the region which could expandits passenger base, as opposed to situations where the service enters themarket without publicity. For instance, the opening of Downtown Line inSingapore was packed with enticing perks such as free travel when one tap-inand out along the line to encourage users to try the new route and incorporateit into their daily commute (Straits Times, 2017).
Withmultiple organisations competing to be at the top of customers’ mind and tryingto protect their market share, an organisation’s success is not only determinedby the prudent application of funds and ground-breaking technology it employsbut also by the relationship established with the customers, which is afunction of marketing. Without marketing, railway transport will remain as aplain necessity and the companies which operate them would become lifelessservice providers as it would not matter to the users which company isoperating a particular line. A company can rise or go bust without the users’concern or support as the only product differentiation between the firms arethe routes that they operate and the inability to retain a loyal consumer basewould evidently be detrimental to the sustainability of railways.Ironically,marketing is pertinent to the seemingly monopolistic railway industry as eachservice provider has to compete against other rail operators as well asindirect competitors like bus service operators and domestic flight carriers.On top of advertising their service and branding the organisation, railwaymarketing is also tasked with recognising the needs of its target audience andestablishing the demand for its own service through active customer interactionand feedback collections.
While areliable service will attract users, marketing is at the centre of creatingcustomer loyalty and customer retention. This is evident from the case study inCroatia and other liberalised rail transport markets, where productdifferentiation and client engagement are critical in securing a foothold inthe field. Marketing in general has proved to be a successful initiative inattracting more customers across various industries through the myriad ofpromotions and campaigns to ensure that the companies stay relevant. Bysecuring a loyal consumer base and a steady influx of users, marketing isconsequently responsible for the railway’s increase in revenue, companies’growth and by extension, the increase in a company’s profitability andlongevity (considering the huge amount of resources needed to operate andmaintain a railway service). Ultimately,every “product launch” starts and ends with marketing as the function seeks toidentify whether the customer’s needs were met after introducing the productand how they could further bridge the gap to create a lasting demand for therailway provider’s service. Going forward, it seems more beneficial for urbanrailways to engage in marketing considering the more demanding consumer-baseand competitive environment that the industry faces.
For the long-term success of railways, perhaps rail operatorsshould start exploring various strategies to capture their market share insteadof carrying out the usual advertising and copywriting.